Most students at the University of Dallas have at least some familiarity with many of the Catholic Church’s major religious orders from personal connections, research or the Core.
In 2016, one religious order separates itself from others.
The “Ordo Praedicatorum,” better known as the Dominican Order, is celebrating 800 years since its founding.
In the history of a 2,000-year-old church, 800 years may not appear to be a long time, but as Prior Jude Siciliano explains, 800 years is unique.
“It’s a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit,” Siciliano said. “It’s been a history of great saints and martyrs. It’s been a very inclusive history. We have sisters in convents and monasteries. We have friars and brothers and lay people. It has been a story of 800 years of a family. It’s something we can look on with pride.”
The Dominican presence at UD began almost as early as UD itself, when Fr. Damian C. Fandal, O.P. arrived at a largely barren campus in 1958.
For a proud Texan like Fandal, UD immediately felt like home.
Originally, the Dominican Provincial wanted to expand the apostolate to other universities and high schools.
As a result, the Dominicans came to UD while also running Bishop Lynch High School, now run by the Diocese of Dallas.
The Dominicans and the Cistercians worked together to run UD, with members of both orders teaching many classes in theology, history, education and philosophy.
Fr. Tom Cain and Fandal then became the public faces of the Dominican Priory.
Cain brought a warm, loving presence and an infectious smile that led many young men into the Dominican novitiate.
Back then, the Dominicans lived in a priory where SB Hall now stands.
The original Dominican Priory, especially its large porch area, was a favorite gathering place for students.
In 2002, the Priory of St. Albert the Great was dedicated, and it continues to serve UD under Siciliano’s guidance.
The way in which Siciliano became prior is unique to the Order of Preachers.
“It’s been a history of an order that has from the beginning with St. Dominic been a democratic order,” Siciliano said. “We’ve elected our superiors. Each one of us [has] a regional directorship like a prior, a provincial, a master. These are all elected offices by members of the order, the friars and the sisters, too.”
Unlike many orders, he explained, the “Ordo Praedicatorum” of 1216 is the same Order of Preachers in 2016.
“We take pride in the fact that the order has never been divided into parts,” Siciliano said. “We have different styles, practices and cultures, but the order has held together. There have been reform movements, but never a reform order.”
The vision of the Dominican Order is fairly simple.
“The single vision of preaching and what falls under it, which is diverse, gives each one of us a sense of identity. Who are the Dominicans? They’re preachers. We have to challenge ourselves, asking, how do we preach? Are we being faithful to that call? It challenges us to study. It challenges us to spirituality and to pray together as brothers,” Siciliano said. “Whatever feeds that preaching we’ve tried to develop: a life of study and community to support preachers when they’re on the road. We preach in a lot of different ways. We have a prison ministry. I’m an itinerant preacher. Fr. Don [Dvorak] and Fr. Ian [Bordenave] preach on campus. That vision is unifying and inspiring.”
Even though the 800th anniversary is a reason to celebrate the many positive aspects of the Dominicans, Siciliano made it clear they are not a perfect order.
“We’re not perfect and we haven’t lived up to it, but we compromise like human beings,” Siciliano said. “We sin; we ask for forgiveness. The ongoing nourishment we receive from the Holy Spirit, which in itself challenges us to live the Gospel; encouraging us to do it better: maybe that’s why we begin every Mass with ‘Lord have mercy.’”
Perhaps Fandal explained the Dominican Order the best in a homily in 1979.
“I like to think as a religious order we are well named: The Order of Preachers. Sometimes it is difficult to explain to people who inquire what O.P. means after one’s name. When you try to explain it, they wonder why a bunch of Catholics would call themselves preachers. At least that was the case in Texas,” Fandal said. “Yet I think we are well named, because it ought to be the case that each of us becomes a Dominican to go out to all the world and tell the good news. That is our purpose. Everything else about us is subservient to that fact.”